I’m just back from the Harvard Medical School publishing course and, like everyone else who attended–faculty and participants alike–buzzing with excitement. The e-mail I received last night from one of my book writing students, Abby Rodman, sums up the experience well:
“I didn’t anticipate how exciting this conference would
be. The energy, intellect and talent that filled the ballroom at the Copley Plaza was electrifying. Doing the Shameless Pitches exercise, I thought my heart would beat out of my chest. Seventy seconds to get interest in my book…? It turned out to be one of the highlights. It challenged me, for the first time, to REALLY put my book idea out there.
“Getting positive feedback from agents, publishers and coaches couldn’t have felt better! A few wanted to speak to me about my book and I made some great connections.”
So, what’s a shameless pitch? Describe your book concept in 70 seconds or less. Oh yes, and be sure to make clear who your audience is, what’s unique about your book, why people will read it, why you’re the one to write it and what kind of platform you already have as an author.
A panel of experts–literary agents, a publicist, publishers (acquisitions editors), editors and writing coaches–in their fastest and, hence, most illegible script–let you know how you fare on the above criteria.
Who would subject themselves to such torture? Apparently a good fifty or so aspiring authors who know the feedback will be instrumental in refining the concept of their book. The exercise also pays off when an agent writes, “Please see me. I’m interested” at the bottom of the page.
Some of the takeaways I heard from participants:
- From surgeon Catherine Tucker, MD, “I’m now thinking the book should be part memoir, part activism, part advice rather than a straight memoir,” after so many people came up to her afterward to comment on how much they could have used a book like hers.
- From Ryan Zaklin, MD, MA, a resident in Internal Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Clinical Teaching Fellow at Harvard Medical School, “I really had no idea what the heck my book was about, and less of an idea of how to describe it. That is all changed. Also, platform is the key to success. And I can start building one with a few simple steps.”
- Another participant told me he realized that the book he pitched was not the book he’ll write first. Conversations at the conference, including ours, made it clear he should write the book that leveraged his current platform and use that to support other books in the future.
If you attended the conference, what’s your takeaway? What insights did you have? Did being at the conference clarify your book for you? Or send you back to the drawing board? What’s your biggest question, now that you’re back?